AI: How we arrived at the 4th industrial revolution


You could be forgiven for wondering why AI is so big all of a sudden. Hasn't humankind been dreaming about human-like robots for a long time? The first Star Wars film (with crowd-pleasing'droids' R2D2, C-3PO) was released in 1977; Terminator (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cyborg assassin) was a massive success in the mid -1980s, a few years after Blade Runner (starring synthetic – or not? The idea of an intelligent machine is not exactly a new one, yet our ability to create something with Artificial Intelligence has increased dramatically in the last decade or so. There is now scope to use AI to make legal assessments, create games, predict purchases, navigate through traffic, translate words into different languages and diagnose diseases.

Microsoft's Cortana now has 230 skills (and Amazon's Alexa, 25,000)


There are currently 230 skills, or supplemental apps, available for Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant, while there are at least 25,000 for Amazon's Alexa. No, that's not a typo. I'm not missing a comma or some zeros. There are only 230 Cortana skills, as of December 2017. And this includes as part of the total more than a few school fight songs.

Techmeeting in San Francisco on Conversational Interfaces, Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence Innovation Prime


On Wednesday December 13th, the Global Open Innovation Network organized a Techmeeting in San Francisco focused on chatbots. A panel of experts opened the event to share their perspective on chatbots and how they are addressing this growing technology within their organization. For this reason, eBay has fully embraced the future relevance and transformation potential of chatbots on their business. They have decided to invest in the whole stack, from developing their own natural language processing to computer vision, and making sure they are training their artificial intelligence to be the most competent possible. This has materialized into the Personal Shopbot, a smart personal shopping assistant, available on Facebook Messenger and Google Assistant.

The skeptic's guide to smart home gadgets

Washington Post

Before you buy any "smart" gadgets, make sure they're not dumb. This holiday season, a third of Americans plan to buy a smart home device, according to the Consumer Technology Association. But just hooking up the Internet to a door lock, kettle or dog bowl (yes, that's a thing) doesn't make it smart. The trick is figuring out which ones are worth the cost, trouble and inevitable security risks. I've been in those weeds.

How Google and Amazon are 'spying' on you

Daily Mail

You would be forgiven for thinking that your private conversations were just that, but two leading voice assistants are listening to everything you say, a new report claims. Patent applications from Amazon and Google revealed how their Alexa and Voice Assistant powered smart speakers are'spying' on you. The study warns of an Orwellian future in which the gadgets eavesdrop on everything from confidential conversations to your toilet flushing habits. Future versions of gadgets like the Echo and Home will use this data to try and sell you products, it says. You would be forgiven for thinking that your private conversations were just that, but two leading voice assistants are listening to everything you say, a new report claims.

Apple Wants Siri To Detect When Someone Is Whispering -- And Whisper Back

International Business Times

Having Siri answer questions out loud can be helpful, but sometimes too loud for the environment the user is in. A new patent, spotted by Gizmodo, shows Apple is trying to address that inconvenience. The patent reveals Apple is looking into improving Siri by allowing her to detect when a user whispers to her, and in return having the voice assistant whisper back. The documents, titled "Digital Assistant Providing Whispered Speech," details a system that would recognize when a person is using his or her regular voice or when the user is whispering by measuring an input's amplitude and frequency patterns. Whispering to Siri now might pose a problem, since voice assistants usually need to hear commands loud and clear to answer questions or carry out tasks.

There Can Be No Denying It: Bots Are Now Marketers


With the rise of conversational experiences, just about every business function--from marketing to commerce to support--must be redesigned to be conversational. The greatest impact felt due to conversational marketing is that businesses interact with far more consumer prospects than they do with those paying customers. Each one of us will soon be experiencing this as a target, if we aren't already. But it's merely the latest phase in the evolution of marketing. The earliest phase was known as outbound marketing, and it consisted of broadcasting key messages to vast audiences through media along the lines of print and television.

Marketing with AI: the next leap into the future


Call them what you will, but in my experience, the millennials I work with are some of the most brave, creative and intelligent people I know. Recently, while in a text conversation with one of my assistants, (a millennial), regarding this article I was writing, he responded with this sentiment, "I wonder if one of the mechanics building the first fleet of Model-Ts felt like this. It's a strange, out of body feeling of'after we do this, a lot of life as we know it is going to change.'" We started riffing on how many people might have been freaking out about the replacement of horses, and all that comes with horseback being the primary vehicle for transportation, (such a loss of jobs for the blacksmith, the farriers, the growers of alfalfa, etc., etc.) I've talked a lot about how artificial intelligence, (AI), and machine learning is revolutionary for our world as a whole, however in this article, I wanted to open the discussion around one very specific application of the machines, (algorithms), that learn with very wide-ranging applications: AI powered marketing and sales. What my millennial assistant and I began to discuss, (all via back-and-forth text messaging), is that, in order to create value-adding autonomous systems, we have to feed those systems with massive amounts of data about ourselves.

Samsung's $200 Bixby speaker go on sale 'early next year'

Daily Mail

Samsung is set to take on Apple, Google and Amazon with a new home speaker using its Bixby AI. The new speaker will go on sale early next year, according to Bloomberg. Samsung has already confirmed it will will'soon' release a smart speaker designed to take on Amazon's Echo, Google's Home and Apple's HomePod. Bloomberg says the speakers will have a'strong focus on audio quality and the management of connected home appliances such as lights and locks.' It will also synchronize with TVs, Galaxy smartphones and other Samsung devices.

Google Home Max: Google's max effort pays off in powerful smart speaker


If you care more about your smart speaker's sound than which digital assistant it employs, the new Google Home Max speaker should be on your holiday short list. After days of pumping an eclectic range of music through Google's $399 speaker -- from AC/DC to the Three Tenors -- it's clear the Google Home Max is in a class by itself when it comes to filling a home or apartment with sounds even an audiophile could appreciate. The downsides: It's big, heavy, cord-powered and not particularly portable. Admittedly, for many people the decision to purchase this or that voice-activated smart speaker has often boiled down to which AI-infused digital assistant you're most comfortable engaging with in your home, most likely Amazon's Alexa or the Google Assistant. But when music is the priority, different features come into play.